Imagine that you find yourself in a new city, with no idea how to speak the local language. What would be the first things that you would learn in order to survive?
Some of the most important phrases relate to getting around. After all, how are you going to get from A to B in an unfamiliar place if you can’t ask for directions and understand the response?
Learn a few phrases which will let you ask where things are, or how to get there. It will be well worth your time.
Next up it will be beneficial to learn your numbers. This will let you find out prices of goods and services, and haggle in a rudimentary way. Most people will have been overcharged for something in an unfamiliar land, and sometimes it’s down to simply not knowing how much you are expected to pay.
Once you’ve got your numbers down, it’s time to work on some common verbs. For now it’s not important to learn the different tenses, so just concentrate on the infinitive forms. You might sound like a caveman, but it’s one step above the elaborate game of charades that you’ve been using to express yourself up until now.
With verbs like go, walk, eat and play, you can start having rudimentary conversations. Once you feel confident enough, expand the number of verbs in your vocabulary and then start to learn the present tense.
What you learn next very much depends on how you are spending your time. If you are looking for a bar job, you’ll probably get to know the words for different drinks and bar items. However if you are volunteering with children, your vocabulary will likely come to include some commands or playing words.
As you continue to improve your language skills it’s important to add to your knowledge of verbs. Try to learn the imperfect and perfect tenses so that you will be able to tell stories about things that have happened to you. At the same time note down the words for objects that you use or see in everyday life, as these will be the most useful.
With many language learning textbooks you are taught words that you may not need. It might be nice to be able to describe animals or weather patterns, but there are more useful things that you could want to learn.
This is why language learning is a personal process and can only be taken so far by prescribed courses. Learning from a book will help you to get a grasp of lots of different areas, but they might not be the most relevant to your life.
The best way to learn is to carry a small notebook with you, which you use to note down new words that you hear other people use. There is no shame in getting people to point out what they are talking about when you hear a new word so you can write it down. At the end of each day take a look over the words and try to commit them to memory.
In the future you can then try to fit these words into sentences that you construct. Experts say that the mark of learning a word is when you use it yourself in natural speech, so try to use each of the new words that you learn.
By following this plan you will be able to achieve a degree of fluency in the particular areas of language that you use in everyday life. At the same time there will be plenty of language missing from your vocabulary.
As you grow more confident it’s time to branch out into new areas, until eventually you can hold a conversation on almost any subject. It might seem a long way off when you first start learning, but persevere and you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly you progress.
While some languages may be easier to pick up than others, this vague strategy should stand you in good stead. Of course a more structured course may help some people, but if you really have to get by on a shoestring budget then this kind of immersion learning can lead to rapid progress.